What is a troll?
Trolls originate from early Scandinavian folklore. They are usually smaller beings similar in size to dwarves or elves. Trolls tend to dwell in mounds or near the sea—in our case “mounds” (nearby Blue Mounds)—and are known to have developed semi-magical powers such as prophecy and shape-shifting. According to ancient Norwegian legend, trolls have long, crooked noses; only four fingers on each hand and four toes on each foot; a long, bushy tail; and live to be hundreds of years old.
Most trolls are shaggy and look frightening, but are mostly good-natured and naive. It is advised to keep a good relationship with Trolls as they are often known to be guarding treasures of gold or gemstones. In our case, they guard the friendly people and wonderful attractions of our community!
What’s the deal with the trolls in Mount Horeb?
Well, in the 1939, the Cave of the Mounds was discovered on the Brigham Farm in neighboring Blue Mounds. When the earth opened up, trolls sprung from the earth! They made their way to Mount Horeb and quickly fell in love with the jewels and gems of our community – that is the beauty of the rolling hills, the fertile soil, our unique small businesses, and our friendly residents. They liked Mount Horeb so well that they settled here and now stand guard over those gems that continue to make our community special to this day.
Ok, but what’s the less magical (but equally as interesting) story?
In the mid-1970s Open House Imports, a Scandinavian gift shop, started placing trolls imported from Norway on their lawn to entice visitors into their shop. The trolls caught not only visitors’ attention, but also that of passing truckers. In the late 1970s, truckers would denote their location to trucker buddies on CB radio by saying, “I just passed your mother-in-law on Highway 18/151,” referring to the trolls they had just passed.
In the mid-1980s a Hwy. 18/151 bypass was built around Mount Horeb. Village businesses were very concerned about the negative economic impact the bypass might cause. Memories of the troll spotting truckers sparked a great idea and the troll theme emerged.
Resident woodcarver, Michael Feeney, the Troll Carver of Mount Horeb, was asked to create carved trolls by Village officials who were impressed with his work and soon more trolls had a life and a home! As more trolls were erected on Business 18/151 it became known as the “Trollway.” The slogan, “Take the Trollway through Mount Horeb” was developed for highway signage and other marketing campaigns.
The Chicken Thief, one of Mike’s first trolls, was placed on Main Street (downtown Hwy. 18/151) next to Olson’s Christmas House (now housed inside the Driftless Historium), and The Accordion Player can be found near Mount Horeb Telephone Company. A fun fact—The Accordion Player once captured the attention of a busload of Norwegian accordion players. According to Mike, the bus unloaded, the passengers disembarked with their accordions and, much to the delight of onlookers proceeded to serenade the troll for at least 20 minutes!
Our carved trolls are known to relax while watering flowers, tending chickens, playing music or just plain ol’ hamming it up for your viewing pleasure! Over the years Mike has created many life-sized whimsical trolls along our historic Main Street. Check out his work at WoodenChicken.com. Now, new trolls by other area carvers are helping to populate the Trollway for visitors to enjoy. Mount Horeb also has its very own living troll, Jorgen, who can be found at many festivals throughout the year!
The Trollway Today
Today, Mount Horeb businesses are still welcoming new trolls to the Trollway! Request the latest version of our Troll Map to make sure you find them all! Want a troll to take home? Visit Open House Imports for traditional Norwegian trolls, and swing by the Driftless Historium‘s Gift Shop for trolls of all kinds. The Mount Horeb Welcome Center’s Trollway Gift Shop also offers unique Trollway merchandise.
Are you looking for a troll to take up residents at your Mount Horeb area place of business? Contact the Mount Horeb Area Chamber of Commerce. They can connect you with a troll looking for a home.